Sunday, March 27, 2011

Webmedcentral - an early 1st April joke?

A few days ago I received an invitation from a computer to review a manuscript. The computer's name is Webmedcentral, it seems, and it's the latest incarnation of Open Access file uploading. At the moment you can publish (ie upload a file to said computer) free of charge, but that's gonna change by January 2012. None of the computer's content is indexed in any databases at all, except tragically by google scholar. 

The paper I was asked to review consisted of 427 words and 2 references. The computer explained to me that the paper had been published already, and that the review would take place after publication of the article in question. Authors could then publish revised versions of their article in response to the reviews received, or ignore the reviews altogether. Either way, said computer (hardwarewise not that different from other Open Access 'journals' - and neither quality wise in all too many instances) explains on its website that it has 'have full faith in the honesty and integrity of the scientific community and firmly believe[s] that most researchers and authors who have something to contribute should have an opportunity to do so.' Despite strong evidence of widespread cheating in academia trust is what drives this computer.  

How does this thing work then? 'We have introduced a novel method of post publication peer review, which is author driven. It is the authors' responsibility to actively solicit at least three reviews on their article. During the submission stage the authors are asked to provide details of three reviewers who are contacted by the WebmedCentral team when the article is published. Authors can seek more reviews, if they so wish. We discourage authors from choosing their reviewers selectively.'

'Our peer review process is author driven. With our innovative method of publishing, peer review takes place after publication. It is authors' responsibility to organise at least three reviews for their articles. We aim to generate an open debate on the article after its publication. WebmedCentral reserves the right to invite additional reviews as and when necessary.

All pretty clear: any crook can pick his or her best mates to 'review' content they have already 'published'. They're strongly encouraged not to be crooks, of course. That should just do the trick.

The computer mentions in passing  that it has neither an Editor nor an Editorial Board: 'With our model of publishing, we do not need an editor or editorial board for our journal. Authors are completely in charge of the entire publication process including soliciting reviews and submitting revised versions of the manuscripts if needed.' It's kinda unclear how a journal without Editor or Editorial Board is going to solicit  further reviews, 'if needed', but hey, minor detail in the big swing of the Webmedcentral universe.

There is a bit of confusion, too (well, I remained confused about the modus operandi). It seems as if you'd upload your papers free of charge to the computer, then have the article send to your three best mates whose compliments will also be 'published'. If they review more than three other files they can send more of their own non-reviewed drivel for publication purposes to the Webmedcentral server. Basic maths would suggest that soon review co-operatives identifiable by one's three best mates will monopolize much of Webmedcentral's file uploading activities. According to Webmedcentral the comments are also considered publications. It goes without saying that in this uploading orgy minor details such as doi identifiers are missing, but hey, it's a minor detail while you 'publish' a paper per hour to beef up your publications record. 

It's all pretty random and no doubt databases controlled by people as opposed to algorithms will not index stuff emanating from webmedcentral. Google scholar at least is happily indexing the contents on the Webmedcentral server. The price you pay for letting machines do the job humans arguably should be doing. 

The only nice thing is that webmedcentral could easily be confused with biomedcentral. It couldn't hit a nicer 'publisher' :-). 

Oh, the list of shame, aka academics prepared to be associated with this charade, is here. What people confuse with academic publishing here is academics publishing anything they feel like. No different to my blog really... feel free to comment (aka 'review' in Webmedcentral lingo).


  1. Good mud-throwing. That's also allowed on the web.

  2. I think you are a pompous snob full of your own self importance who thinks nothing of ruining peoples' lives.
    You have no regard for others just for your own self serving adgenda

  3. Fun, Jackie, case of shooting the messenger I take it? Too bad both of us have not 'published' our enlightened exchange on webmedcentral, because otherwise each of us would have had a new academic publication (with listing on google scholar and all). Kinda fun that sort of vanity publishing activity!

  4. It's not about what you write or say. It's about you, your personality & your lack of respect for people & property. I don't give a toss about your publishing articles except when they show you to be a hypocrite & a liar

  5. Ok Jackie, I understand that you don't like me. I don't care really one way or another. You do realize, I hope, that this is the second post by now in which you busily call me names without providing any justification (or evidence) for what you are saying. Where do I lie in this or any of the other things I have written on this blog or elsewhere? Why am I a hypocrite? Etc etc, do you get the drift?

    It's bad enough to call someone anonymously names in a public forum, it's worse to do so without providing a shred of justification or evidence...

  6. Dear Schuklenk,

    I am one of the contributor of the Webmedcentral. I am not curious about advocate something.However, your words only reflex the words of the system. I don't what the quality you are seeking for but I know articles that were published in science citation index literature which are out of ethics and moral rules. Also I know articles that must not be published but some factor other than scientific affect their appearance. If you say that reviewer quality, I know that most of the "peer-reviewed" journal reply authors with only one reviewers decision.
    I don't find problem for the publications for any of the medical doctors. Also ,reviewing may come after the publication.What is important for me is the open -heart criticisms and every has to see these critics. Anyone who is related the article write his/her comment and you can reply these comments.
    So,I find an evaluation of a big contribution more scientific than a reviewers decision for an article. Let the people write their studies and let others critize these articles freely.
    Atilla Senayli


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Certainty is not a defensible standard for policy making in the context of assisted dying

I mentioned in a Bioethics editorial a while ago that new frontiers are opening in the assisted dying debate. As an increasing number of...